My last 10 years at Disney were focused on international expansion," Murphy said in an interview Monday afternoon shortly after Harrah's announced its appointment as new president of strategy and development.
Harrah's took massive debt after it was acquired by private equity firm Apollo Capital. It has struggled along with other companies in the industry as casino spending fell during the downturn, particularly in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, where Harrah's has a heavy presence.
Still, it has recently indicated a number of very modest investments, including a deal to buy a racetrack in Ohio, where it plans to add slot machines, and the acquisition of debt from Planet Hollywood on the Las Vegas Strip, as well as a possible joint venture with an international partner to carry the Harrah's brand in Eastern Europe.
Murphy described himself as a "growth catalyst" at while at Disney. Despite Harrah's hefty debt, he thinks there is significant opportunity to grow by partnering to form joint ventures with Harrah's brands and expanding in international hot spots, such as Macau. Harrah's operates a golf course in the Chinese gambling enclave, but doesn't have a license to operate a casino there.
Murphy will occupy a new position created after the retirement of a vice president of development last year. He began his career at Disney in 1988, shortly after graduating from business school, and rose to become its chief strategic officer under then-Chief Executive Michael Eisner. He left Disney in 2005 around the same time that Robert Iger, who succeeded Eisner as CEO, dissolved his strategic planning division.
Murphy went on to become a media adviser for Apollo Capital, which in 2008 acquired Harrah's. He said he didn't work on the Harrah's deal for Apollo. "Harrah's is entertainment primarily for adults, but there are parallels in competing for a share of leisure time" with the more family-friendly Disney, Murphy said.